Choosing Your Motorcycle – How to Choose the Best Bike for Your Needs

This month’s column is about choosing the best motorcycle to fit your needs. Selecting the right bike might just help keep you out of a situation where you need a motorcycle lawyer! Before we get to my list of criteria for selecting your bike, I thought it might be useful to put together a few questions you should be asking yourself as you make this decision.

How long have you been riding? Do you have beginner, intermediate or expert level riding skills?

What type of riding will you be doing? Weekend tours and rallies? Offroad? Commuting to work or school?

What kinds of streets will you be on? Surface streets? The freeway or interstate? Rural 2-lane blacktop?

Once you’ve answered these general questions about your goals and desires for riding, you can attack these more specific questions and criteria for big and tall bikes.

Assess your needs – Will you be riding in heavy traffic, long distances or only on weekends? For instance, if you are looking for a weekend toy, you might be tolerant of a sleek, but uncomfortable bike. However, if you plan on using your motorcycle to take you to work each day, you will need comfort, storage and durability.

Choose a bike that fits your body – Because there are so many types of bikes available today, you must sit on, and if at all possible, test drive the motorcycle you intend to buy. The test drive will show you the ergonomic differences between the models you’re considering, and the contrast between what you expected and the reality of the bike. When doing this, make sure you keep an open mind because regardless of what you think you want, if you do not choose the correct motorcycle, you will find reasons not to ride it. And a bike that is suited to your body is a much safer bike than one that is too large, or too powerful, etc.

New or used – big and tall bikes? 

This is a bigger question than most people realize because most motorcycle riders would prefer a new bike if given a choice. But if you’ve already started window shopping, you know these things are not cheap. Buying a used bike can give you most of the same thrills you’d get from a new bike without the big price tag. On the other hand, they may not be quite as shiny as you’d like. Again, it depends on what you really hope to get out of your purchase. Remember, since a used bike has already depreciated, they may offer a better value for your hard-earned dollar.

Consider the total cost of ownership (TCO) – When preparing to buy a motorcycle you need to realistically estimate the expenses you will encounter from its operation over its entire lifecycle. This means more than simply buying the motorcycle and estimating what maintenance will cost. For starters, before buying, you should get at least 3 insurance estimates. I have had many clients spend between $3,000 and $30,000 on the bike, and then not have the money to insure it properly, and so end up purchasing the minimum required motorcycle insurance coverage.

Then, we all know what happens next… a motorcycle accident occurs and they don’t have collision, comprehensive, uninsured and/or underinsured motorist (UI/UIM)coverage and ultimately they find themselves without a motorcycle, and no way to get compensated for their injuries.

Long story short: don’t jump into this decision without some serious thought – even soul searching! This is a big ticket item.

I would also suggest that prior to buying, you enroll in and take the motorcycle safety course if it is offered in your state (it is required in many states to get your license).

Then, once you become a licensed biker you follow the path that I followed, which is to buy a used motorcycle for a few thousand dollars, spend three to six months learning on it, and when you feel ready, shop for the motorcycle of your dreams.